Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Voters must take time to fact check about nation's debt crisis

By Cal Potter

Now that we are in the midst of a political campaign season, we are faced with a blizzard of accusations, many lacking any factual base. Such is the case with the causal factors for the nation’s debt.

When President Clinton left office, this nation had a balanced budget. And had the succeeding Bush administration not cut taxes on the wealthy, entered us into two unfunded wars and the nation not been cast into the deepest recession since the Great Depression, the fact is this nation today would have no debt at all.

Not only did the recession begin during the later Bush era, but the expensive bailout measures also began during that previous administration. Economists tell us the Democrat and Republican supported bailouts prevented this nation from falling into a full-fledged depression, as well as saved and returned to health, the American car industry.

So, the political rhetoric accusing President Obama, the inheritor of political and economic mismanagement, including that of our Wall Street stock and bank private sector decision-makers, is either deliberate fraud on the part of the accusers, or an example of gross ignorance of happenings over the past 12 years.

As we cannot avoid the billions of right-wing corporate and affluent individual media dollars to be spent in the weeks ahead to character assassinate an intelligent and honorable president, voters should at least take time to fact check accusations. There are a number of very reputable political fact-check sources on the Web. An educated electorate, who know the facts, is an essential ingredient in a truly functional democracy. Without that condition, special interest individuals and groups will successfully manipulate the system to serve their own selfish interests and financial gain, at the expense of the majority of average Americans.

Calvin Potter is a member of Common Cause in Wisconsin's State Governing Board and a former Democratic State Representative (1975-1991) and State Senator (1991-1998) from Sheboygan Falls.

Monday, August 27, 2012

13% is no solution

By Bill Kraus

This is being written almost two weeks after the Wisconsin primary election.

I have contacted every imaginable media source and have checked the website of the Government Accountability Board (GAB) in an attempt to find out what the statewide voter turnout was for that election.

No one seems to know. The not-so-current posting by GAB tells us the primary election will be held on August 14.

A helpful soul who seems to be in charge of the public television made several inquiries and come up blank.

I concede that it is a small thing--like an unrepaired broken window--but it seems to me to be symptomatic of larger problems that beset us: the localization of news and the partisanization of elections.

My interest was aroused when the guests on Joy Cardin’s talk show on the Friday after the primary agreed that the turnout was around 13 percent. Neither cited a source, but both seemed confident that they had it right. If they did, the next obvious question is why doesn't anyone in the news business consider this extremely low turnout newsworthy enough to deserve a story or more, like a lament.

Is this yet another symptom of what has happened to the information flow in our reporter-deprived democracy?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Desperately seeking civility

By Bill Kraus

Everywhere I turn I hear a plea for civility in politics generally and in political campaigns particularly.

There is even an organization in Oshkosh called the Oshkosh Civility Project devoted to civility. Another is forming in Madison. There may be more.

In government and in campaigns the ad hominem attacks continue unabated nonetheless.

The reason is that incivility is a symptom not a cause of what the pleaders are unhappy about.

The cause is that politics is increasingly the province of yellow-dog partisans.

Yellow dogs want the kind of red-meat demonization that is now endemic and has been for so long.

The campaigns and pronouncements are devoted to currying the support of the rabid yellow-dog voters who have long since decided who and what they favor.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Election overload

By Bill Kraus

It is my fervent hope that 2012 will go down in the record books as the year of the most elections, that we will never again approach this year’s six elections in 10 months.

It all started out so innocently. A February primary to chose the two finalists for the Supreme Court election in April eliminated one contender. The incumbent, predictably, won by a large margin over the successful challenger and was expected to do so again in the finals in April.

Then all hell broke loose.

Recalls everywhere and anywhere. A Supreme Court race that was more about who liked the governor more and who liked him not at all instead of about the two candidates who were on the ballot and their virtues if any.

Recall frenzy took over and election fatigue began to set in as we had our first-ever general elections in May and June.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Diversity in politics

By Bill Kraus

I was invited to a post-football-game party by then-UW President Fred Harvey Harrington more than 50 years ago. Others in attendance included professors, administrators, legislators, students, citizens from far and wide. It was the most diverse, best party I had ever attended.

When he was chancellor of UW-Stevens Point, Lee Dreyfus threw the same kind of parties in that smaller town where diversity was more common but not complete. The chief of police was there. The editor of the local paper. The president of the paper mill. Students. Teachers. Athletes. Politicians.

We carried this kind of mixing and matching into our own lives when I married a woman whose friends were mostly from the arts while mine were mostly from politics with a dose of journalists. They got along great. They were different in almost every way except their lives were driven by a common entrepreneurship. Artists were only as good as their last production, reporters as their last story, politicians as their last election.